Australian whizz kid Josh Jett has accumulated over 10,000 hits on SoundCloud, and his Arcane Revolver alias is already a name with currency in Brisbane: Jett’s cinematic, driving dance-pop comes with all the hooks and samples it takes to get a crowd moving. But his new EP, French, which comprises his five most popular tracks and captures the energy he’s known for, suffers from a lack of variety, teasing us with a sleek array of beats, synths, and breaks that seem to cry out for an extra dimension.
The 22-year-old producer knows how to work a crowd. “Feel Good Morning” starts with a pulsing drum track and shimmering vocals before Jett lays down a jazzy keyboard line—an example of how to incorporate some jazz sultriness into a trip-hop song without coming off as pompous. “I Need You to Smile” is a more immediate dance-floor filler, taking synthesized cymbals and a baggy beat and driving them through climbing piano chords, reminiscent of Robert Miles’s “Children.” Whereas that song built to an early peak, Jett’s ascending melody continues to reveal new things, like xylophones and brass synths, while the piano begins to sound like a harpsichord.
But as alluring as those moments are, French‘s highlights are embedded in lengthy passages of filler. The absence of lyrics, a key ingredient in commercial dance-pop, is sometimes painfully obvious: “I Just Want Your Lovin’” contains just one voice sample, and feels twice as long as its four-minute runtime, the rap beat cycling endlessly beneath a chipmunk vocal. “Final Destination” drops political soundbites over military drums and stabbing piano notes, which is stirring in places but ultimately says nothing. Fortunately, Jett seems aware of the moments he hits the wall and compensates with the closing “Run from a Dream,” a moment of slow-burning IDM perfection where Ennio Morricone’s music box from For a Few Dollars More plays over a single, eerie bass note before bursting into strings and an explosive drill beat. It’s as animated and on-target as the young producer gets, and shows that within the middling club material, French hides some uniquely engaging pay-offs.